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19 posts from June 2014

June 14, 2014

Heat fans' deal with the Devil: Finals Miracle or future 'Melo? Poll. Vote; plus FUTBLOG! World Cup Days 1-2-3 including today's stunner & more


1aa1acnoll1) It is SATURDAY, JUNE 14. R.I.P., Chuck Noll, Steelers coaching great, gone at 82. 2) Friday the 13th. It was a day of dread for paraskevidekatriaphobes and also for Heat fans who awakened to the reality that, yes, Game 4 really happened. 3)
In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Spurs Game 4 with postgame video and MVP standings, Bobby Ramos, Melo-to-Heat speculation, Chalmers' disappearance and more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Click on Dream Crashing for my column from the arena off Heat's Thursday loss.

YOUR DEAL WITH THE DEVIL: MIRACLE OR 'MELO?: I don't deal with hypotheticals much in these blog polls. I sense you all prefer reality-based questions, not supposition. Nevertheless, I thought this might be fun, and a good debate-point. Say Heat fans were offered this choice: A miracle? Or 'Melo? A) The 1aa1adevilHeat will make NBA history by winning three straight games over San Antonio and a third straight championship. Or B) The Heat this summer will sign pending free agent Carmelo Anthony and make it a Big 4, as ESPN has reported they are devising a plan to try to do. [A new report today is that Anthony will opt out and test free agency. Sorry, Phil Jackson]. The catch in our Melo-poll scenerio is it's either/or. Can't have both. Must decide which would be greater: Achieving a three-peat? Or adding a major offensive weapon? The immediacy of another parade? Or a major, future-minded move? The premise behind this poll is that Miami needs help. More specifically, LeBron needs help. The roster is too old, carries too much dead wood. Overhaul may be a strong word, but more than tinkering is needed. I think the Big 3 of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will stay intact and all return, but help is needed. So we're back to the poll. Would you indulge the hypothetical? (Me and this poll are getting punched up a bit on Twitter; no matter. The debate is legit, and the vote, by the way, is closer than I thought it might be). Vote and say why.

1aa1abrazilwcFUTBLOG! ENGLAND-ITALY HIGHLIGHTS DAY 3 ACTION: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, offering continually updated daily news/summaries/miscellanea on the month-long soccer quadrennial in Brazil. (See previous post for our group-by-group preview).

Day 3 / Today 6-14: Match of Day: ITALY 2, ENGLAND 1 (Group D): A battle of international futbol tioitans went according to form with the final result as Italy overcame the injury absence of its starting goalkeeper.    

Colombia 3, Greece 0 (Group C): Colombia is a favorite in a less than scintillating Group C -- the Group of Dearth -- and showed why in its opener.

Costa Rica 3, Uruguay 1 (Group D): Stunner. Biggest upset of these early days. Uruguay played without injured star Luis Suarez but still led and was a big favorite over one of the World Cup's biggest longshots.

Cote d'Ivoire 2, Japan 1 (Group C): Congratulations, Cote. It was a splended result. Love, Greg Cote.


Notes: Big day in Cup play, first with four matches, headlined by England-Italy and our favorite rooting interest other than the U.S. "Let's go Cote! Let's go Cote!"

1aa1ahollandDay 2 / Friday 6-13: Match of Day: NETHERLANDS 5, SPAIN 1 (Group B): Dutch got a measure of vengeance in a rematch of the 2010 final won by Spain. This rout marked the worst loss ever in an opening match by a defending champion. Netherlands is a three-time runnerup known for underachieving. This result raises the stakes again.

Mexico 1, Cameroon 0 (Group A): A just result considering Mexico also had two goals disallowed by very doubtful offside calls.

Chile 3, Australia 1 (Group B): Everybody beats Australia, which never is one of 32 best teams in world but advances from a weak conference so to speak.

WC goals average after Day 2 -- 4 matches, 15 goals: 3.75

Notes: Click here for Newseum's top 10 front pages from Day 1 of the World Cup. (Miami's El Nuevo Herald made the list).

1aa1abrazilsoccDay 1 / 6-12: Match of Day: BRAZIL 3, CROATIA 1 (Group A): Brazil not that impressive and a bit fortunate, giving up an early own-goal, scoring on a penalty kick that shouldn't have been but still prevailing in the match that opened the World Cup it is hosting, and the only match of Day 1. It's OK, though. They're partying just as hard in Sao Paulo. Croatia screwed by the referee on the PK call but can't complain too loudly considering its only goal also was a gift. A less than overwhelming debut for mighty Brazil, but saying that of a 3-1 win speaks of Brazil's might. That, and three points are three points.

WC goals average after Day 1 -- 1 match, 4 goals: 4.00.

Notes: Champion predictions of panel of 18 ESPN soccer experts: Brazil 8 votes, Spain 6, Argentina 4. ..... Click on Us Against The World for my U.S.-oriented World Cup preview column. ..... Click on The Devil FIFA for TV host John Oliver's video skewering of soccer's world organizing body.

Click back often. We update and add to these latest blogposts fastidiously...

FUTBLOG! World Cup group-by-group preview/analysis both serious (For Real) and Cote-fied (For Fun)

1) It is SATURDAY, JUNE 14. Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

FUTBLOG!

FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, offering continually updated daily news/summaries/miscellanea on the month-long soccer quadrennial in Brazil.

1aa1abrazilwcGROUP-BY-GROUP WORLD CUP PREVIEW, FOR REAL AND FOR FUN: Welcome to FUTBLOG!, the official World Cup blog of me. I'll have daily updates and commentary here throughout the month-long extravaganza, because Miami loves soccer and I love soccer and there is nothing else like the World Cup. We start today with a preview of all eight four-team groups, from which two in each will advance to the round of 16. We offer both a serious perspective (For Real) and my own addled view (For Fun). Let's go!

GROUP A -- BRAZIL, CAMEROON, CROATIA, MEXICO

For Real: Betting odds against winning title, via Bovada--Brazil 3-1; Mexico 125-1; Croatia 150-1; Cameroon 500-1. Top 50 players in this WC, via ESPN--Brazil 5 (led by Neymar, 6th); Croatia 1 (Luka Modric, 32nd); Cameroon 1 (Samuel Eto'o, 48th). Past champions--Brazil 5, most recent 2002. Summary--The mighty Canarinho of Brazil should waltz samba through a relatively easy group on their home turf.

1aa1abrazilFor Fun: The pressure on Brazil is enormous. I don't mean to just win the World Cup. I mean to complete all its stadiums, not have any subway strikes and generally not be a disasterous, disorganized host. Then again, nothing fazes Brazilians. Nobody parties like Brazilians. The same is rarely said, for some reason, of Croatians.

GROUP B -- AUSTRALIA, CHILE, NETHERLANDS, SPAIN

For Real: Odds--Spain 6-1; Netherlands 25-1; Chile 40-1; Australia 500-1. Top 50 players--Spain 8 (led by Andres Iniesta, 3rd); Netherlands 2 (led by Argen Robben, 9th); Chile 2 (led by Arturo Vidal, 17th). Past champions--Spain 1, 2010. Summary--Favor Spain's defending champion La Furia Roja, although Netherlands, a three-time WC runnerup, could surprise.

1aa1acorvdhartFor Fun: Spain should reign, but I root for Netherlands (it's still Holland to me) in the memory of the late Fort Lauderdale Strikers coach Cor van der Hart, who'd chain-smoke during games. Australia is waiting for a rugby game to break out.

GROUP C -- COLOMBIA, GREECE, IVORY COAST, JAPAN

For Real: Odds--Colombia 33-1; Ivory Coast 125-1; Japan 150-1; Greece 200-1. Top 50 players--Ivory Coast 2 (led by Yaya Toure, 7th); Colombia 1 (Radamel Falcoa, 19th, but out injured). Past champions--None. Summary--Colombia's Los Cafeteros top a weak group without much pedigree, but Falcoa's injury opens door for a surprise by Ivory Coast.

1aa1acoteFor Fun: Forget "Ivory Coast." It's Cote d'Ivoire, dammit, the Official Team of Greg Cote Other Than the United States. Greg Cote d'Ivoire. If fans of that team chant, "Let's go Cote!" that'd be something I'd pay to hear. I'd say something about Colombia here but it might involve the phrase "drug cartel" so I'd better not.   

GROUP D -- COSTA RICA, ENGLAND, ITALY, URUGUAY

For Real: Odds--England 22-1; Italy 22-1; Uruguay 25-1; Costa Rica 1000-1. Top 50 players--Italy 4 (led by Andrea Pirlo, 15th); England 3 (led by Wayne Rooney, 14th); Uruguay 2 (led by Luis Suarez, 4th). Past champions--Italy 4, most recent 2006; Uruguay 2, most recent 1950; England 1, 1966. Summary--Give slight edge to Italy in what could be most hotly contested group among all but Costa Rica.

1aa1aadeleFor Fun: The big question in this group is whether Wayne Rooney's hair transplants will create an aerodynamic drag that will slow him down. Brits long for their first World Cup triumph in nearly a half-century and have a pretty good shot, according to their coach, Adele. 

GROUP E -- ECUADOR, FRANCE, HONDURAS, SWITZERLAND

For Real: Odds--France 22-1; Switzerland 125-1; Ecuador 150-1; Honduras 1500-1. Top 50 players--France 3 (led by Franck Ribery, 5th, but out injured). Past champions--France 1, 1998. Summary--Les Bleus of France still are the class here, although Ribery's injury levels the field somewhat. 

1aa1azinedineFor Fun: The group would be much more exciting if France still had Zinedine Zidane around to head-butt people. Not much shot at dethroning the French here, especially with Switzerland a famously neutral country whose team plays only for ties in order to not offend anyone or incite international conflict.  

GROUP F -- ARGENTINA, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA, IRAN, NIGERIA

For Real: Odds--Argentina 4-1; Bosnia & Herzegovina 150-1; Nigeria 250-1; Iran 1500-1. Top 50 players--Argentina 4 (led by Lionel Messi, 1st). Past champions--Argentina 2, most recent 1986. Summary--La Albiceleste of Argentina will coast through this easy group and are my pick to win it all.

1aa1airanFor Fun: It's all Argentina in this group. Bosnia & Herzegovina is in its first World Cup; actually both of them are. Iran is a longshot because experts expect their players to be distracted as they split time between soccer and attempting to covertly develop nuclear weapons.

GROUP G -- GHANA, GERMANY, PORTUGAL, UNITED STATES

For Real: Odds--Germany 11-2; Portugal 25-1; USA 100-1; Ghana 200-1. Top 50 players--Germany 8 (led by Bastian Schweinsteiger, 16th); Portugal 1 (Cristiano Ronaldo, 2nd). Past champions--Germany 3, most recent 1990. Summary--Group of Death? Sure must seem like it to Team USA, with Germany among favorites to win it all, Portugal led by maybe the world's best player, and Ghana the nemisis that has eliminated Americans from past two WCs. 

1aa1ausachantFor Fun: I have nothing against those other three countries, except for the irrational xenophobic hatred I'll cultivate over the next next month. United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann stupidly said in an interview the U.S. could not win this World Cup. Stupid not because it isn't true, but because it casts a wet blanket just when Americans are trying to get excited. Figures. He's a German. Luckily, though, we naturally optimistic, don't-like-our-parade-rained-on Americans could not hear him because we were too busy all chanting, "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!"

GROUP H -- ALGERIA, BELGIUM, RUSSIA, SOUTH KOREA

For Real: Odds--Belgium 18-1; Russia 100-1; South Korea 300-1; Algeria 1000-1. Top 50 players--Belgium 3 (led by Eden Hazzard, 10th). Past champions--None. Summary--A very easy grouping for Diables Rouges of Belgium should make it an easy advance to round of 16. 

1aa1aduvelFor Fun: The Belgians could only be a bigger favorite in this group if the competition were waffles, chocolate or ales such as my personal favorite, Duvel. Also of note, Algeria is the largest country in Africa, I root against Russia in honor of Pussy Riot, and South Korea should carry around a sign that reads, 'We're The Good Korea, Not The One Dennis Rodman Visits'.

Click back often. We'll be updating our FUTBLOG! post throughout the World Cup.

June 12, 2014

G4: Spurs 107, Heat 86: Routed again, Miami down 3-1, all but out of hope as LeBron gets no help; also postgame video, updated MVP table, Melo & more

1) It is FRIDAY, JUNE 13. The National Congress of American Indians has an eloquently powerful new ad campaign against the Washington Redskins nickname. Click here for the 2-minute video. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Spurs Game 3 loss and postgame video, postseason MVP standings, LeBatard wins ratings, glamorous life of sports writer (not), Futblog! and more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Check out the debut of our separate World Cup FUTBLOG! in the post directly below this one.

Click on Dream Crashing for my column from the arena off last night's Heat loss.

G4: SAN ANTONIO 107, HEAT 86: MIAMI DOWN 3-1 AFTER LEBRON SCORES 28, NOBODY ELSE SHOWS UP: Stunning, this game. This performance or lack of by Miami. With everything on the line the Heat barely showed up in a 21-point loss that puts Miami down 3-1 in the Finals and fighting for its three-peat life as the series heads to San Antonio for Game 5 Sunday. The Heat had been on a 13-0 run following a playoff loss before the second straight defeat. LeBron James scored 28 and hardly anybody else bothered to show up, with Chris Bosh next-highest Heat scorer with 12 points. Dwyane Wade had 10 on miserable 3-for-13 shooting. What do I mean by "all but out of hope" in the blog's headline? This: No team in NBA Finals history has overcome a 3-1 deficit to win the championship. Click on Dream Crashing for my column from the arena off last night's loss. ..... Original post: Question: Can the Heat win tonight without Melo? Just kidding. But they'd better. I resist saying or writing "must win" because it's a cliche due to too-casual use. People say "must win" when it literally is not; they use it interchangeably for "important game." Anyway, tonight may not be a must-win literally 1aa1aheatspursg4 1aa1amiasafor Miami (trailing the Spurs 2-1), but it is in every other sense when you fathom the alternative. No team in NBA history has trailed 3-1 in the Finals and rallied to win the title, and the Heat
1aa1alebtimdown 3-1 would need two of those three straight wins to come in San Antonio. Impossible? No. Unlikely. Oh, very. That's what tonight is about: Keeping three-peat hopes realistically alive. The pressureis all on Miami coming off a thorough Game 3 spanking on its home floor. The Heat has played 48 consecutive playoff games since last losing two in a row -- 13-0 following losses in that streak -- but the Spurs convey the impression they may be good enough to beat Miami even when the Heat is playing well. And the Heat were miles from playing well the other night. A few of the improvements needed tonight for the Heat to have a chance in Game 4: Hugely better, intense defense by Miami. A positive impact by point guard Mario Chalmers, who has been a Finals nightmare. More involvement from Chris Bosh, who took but four shots Tuesday. And more composure after Tuesday's 20 turnovers including a Finals-record seven by LeBron James. I'd also expect to see James in attack-paint mode after getting to the free-throw line only three times in the last game. The two-time defending champs had better play like it's a must win tonight, because, in all but the literal sense, it is.

OUR GAME 4 POSTGAME VIDEO: That'll be Heat beat writer Joseph (Goody) Goodman on the left looking natty. I'm the guy who looks like a homeless man who wandered in off Biscayne:

 

Heat Postseason MVP Standings (updated): We name 'Heat 3 Stars' after every playoff game and award points on 3-2-1 basis. Last night: 1. LeBron James, 2. Chris Bosh, 3. James Jones. The updated standings through 19 playoff games, entering Sunday's Game 5: LeBron James 45 points, Dwyane Wade 25, Chris Bosh 21, Ray Allen 8, Rashard Lewis 7, Chris Andersen 3, James Jones 3, Norris Cole 2.

WHO IS BOBBY RAMOS AND WHY IS HE HAUNTING THE HEAT WITH AMUSINGLY ACCUSATORY QUESTIONS?: 1aa1abobbyramosI'm really looking forward to tonight's Heat-Spurs Game 4 in Miami, especially the pregame or postgame interview sessions in case Bobby Ramos materializes again to rock the lavender shirt and pose lengthy, meandering, accusatory questions to the Heat. (Actually I am praying for a Spurs loss and the Ramos Treatment for a moody, hairtrigger Gregg Popovich, because there could be a delightful explosion). Ramos, the NBA Finals' Media Internet Sensation Because We're Bored, demanded Erik Spoelstra explain why his team had been "stomped" in Game 3, eliciting the classic one-word response, "Clearly." Ramos later demanded at length that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade explain why the team's offense and defense had been so "lackluster," a bizarre grilling that found James stifling laughter and Wade offering an indulgent, "The problem is we're down 2 games to 1. That's the problem." Ramos is the latest face of a growing trend I call The Quasi-Journalist. He is a former Connecticut cop who evidently runs a small website called the Bottom Line, which has crashed for a lack of bandwidth. He previously masterminded Bobby's Lobby, a blog last tended in 2010. In the social media age, the media pool is murky and crowded now with all manner of mysterious bloggers and sort-of reporters, with legitimate and mainstream media now made to share the same umbrella with a "reporter" in a wedding dress proposing marriage to Tom Brady. It has become likely now that sharing a row in any major-event interview room might be an on-air star for ESPN, a columnist for the New York Times, and Ralphie Bimtoddle of TheRalph.com, who has watched no games but consistently delights his 29 Twitter followers. Into Super Bowls and NBA Finals wander all sorts of Quasi-Journalists because evidently the vetting in the credentialing process now consists entirely of you asking for a credential and the NBA saying, sure Ralphie. This is not a direct slam on Bobby Ramos, mostly because he looks like a guy who could beat me up with a well-aimed stare. Quick advice for Bobby tonight: Popovich especially after a loss enjoys questions that are never-ending and second-guessing in nature and actually more statements than questions. Please don't ask until I'm in the room!

ESPN SAYS HEAT IN DISCUSSIONS TO SIGN CARMELO ANTHONY: The nut graph in a new story by ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein: "Sources told ESPN.com that Heat officials and the team's leading 1aa1abig4players have already started to explore their options for creating sufficient financial flexibility to make an ambitious run at adding New York Knicks scoring machine Carmelo Anthony this summer in free agency." Click HERE for the full story, and HERE for a subsequent detailed analysis on how Miami could make it work under the salary cap. [Update: Chris Bosh said today the Big 3 have not discussed such a thing and called it "very unlikely" to happen]. ESPN saying it doesn't necessarily mean it's true or will happen, but it does mean it's loud, and now whistles and clangs over the ongoing NBA Finals that resume Thursday here with San Antonio up 2-1. It's an ill-timed distraction for the Heat. The story speculates that key Heat players may be willing to make yet more financial sacrifices to make this work, noting that LeBron James is doing fabulously off the court at the bank, including a $30 million windfall due him related to Apple's $3 billion purchase of the Beats By Dre company. The story is believable for a few reasons. The two writers are credible; Windhorst because he is a lifelong friend of LeBron's. James and Anthony are close friends. And Miami (see below) needs to beef up its roster even if it manages to three-peat. Melo, of course, would be Grade-A beef on the offensive end. So, perhaps, the NBA's era of raging jealousy against Heat mastermind Pat Riley sees no end as the Big 3 plots to become the Big 4.

1aa1achalmersBAD: MARIO CHALMERS' PLAY. WORSE: NEEDING HIM THIS MUCH: That's the gist of my latest column, newly online and in today's/Thursday's inky pulp editions. Click on Missing The Point (Guard) for the full column. Chalmers has been awful in the Finals, but needing him this badly underlines a larger issue: The Heat's glaring lack of depth beyond the Big 3 when contrasted with the Spurs.

Click back often. We are always updating and adding to these latest blogposts...

June 10, 2014

Finals G3: San Antonio 111, Heat 92: Home collapse puts Spurs up 2-1 (with postgame video); plus updated MVP table, 790 vs. 'QAM ratings & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, JUNE 11. The National Congress of American Indians has an eloquently powerful new ad campaign against the Washington Redskins nickname. Click here for the 2-minute video. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Spurs Game 2, postseason MVP standings, NBA commish on AC snafu, raw honesty (California Chrome owner) and dumb honesty (Jurgen Klinsmann). 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Click on HOME INVASION for my column from the arena off last night's Heat Finals Game 3 home loss.

G3: SAN ANTONIO 111, HEAT 92: SPURS' SCORCHING FIRST HALF BURIES MIAMI: Spurs up 2-1 after routing Miami 111-92 on its own floor, Heat's first home playoff loss of this postseason. Miami trailed by as many as 25, cut it to seven at one point, but could not overcome S.A.'s hot hand. Spurs set an NBA record by shooting 75.8 percent in the first half after starting off a surreal 19-for-21. Click on Home Invasion for my column off the game. ..... Original post: Two four-letter words both starting with h: Heat and home. That is now Miami's three-peat formula in its most distilled form. Three of the
1aa1aheatspurs 1aa1aheatspuersg3five remaining NBA Finals games are in Miami -- starting tonight at 9 -- and the Heat (with the series tied 1-1) will be champs again if they do not lose on their home floor. Simple ... except that the Spurs match Miami's championship DNA. "You never put them away," as Dwyane Wade said. "They always believe, and it's the same with us." Miami is 8-0 at home this postseason, by an average winning margin of 12.4 points, while San Antonio is only 3-5 on the playoff road. Keeping that disparity intact may require better bench play by the Heat. Spurs reserves have outscored Miami by 71-32 through two games, with nobody but Ray Allen (25 points) doing much offensively forthe Heat off the bench. Miami is minus-24 points when LeBron James is not in the game, a troubling number. Continued aggressiveness by Chris Bosh, stronger bench play beyond Allen and defensive intensity are the keys tonight for Miami. I don't even mention major impact from LeBron, because that by now may be assumed.

Heat Postseason MVP Standings (updated): We name 'Heat 3 Stars' after every playoff game and award points on 3-2-1 basis. Last night: 1. Rashard Lewis; 2. LeBron James; 3. Dwyane Wade. The updated standings through 18 playoff games, including last night's Finals Game 3 loss: LeBron James 42 points, Dwyane Wade 25, Chris Bosh 19, Ray Allen 8, Rashard Lewis 7, Chris Andersen 3, Norris Cole 2, James Jones 2.

OUR HEAT-SPURS GAME 3 POSTGAME VIDEO: Heat beat writer Joseph (Goody) Goodman, in the sharp suit, and myself, in the wrinkled shirt, summarizing Tuesday night's Heat home loss in Game 3 of the Finals:

 

OUR HEAT-SPURS GAME 2 POSTGAME VIDEO:

 

LE BATARD POUNDS 'QAM IN LATEST RATINGS: Just out, the full ratings book for month of May shows the Dan Le Batard Show on 790/104.3 The Ticket with a 5.2 rating versus a 1.4 for the Marc Hochman show running concurrently from 3-7 p.m. on rival WQAM. That's in the key men's 25-54 demographic. It's closer in mornings, with 790's Zaslow & Joy show beating 'QAM's Joe Rose, 4.1 to 3.0. [Interestingly, on the Le Batard rating, the number soared into the 7s on Tuesdays during appearances by Greg Cote, according to an industry source that Cote totally made up. Cote, asked if he felt weird running a blog item about 790 winning in the ratings when he's a part of the show, said, "What? I'm sorry. I didn't hear your question."]

THE GLAMOROUS LIFE OF A SPORTS WRITER: Friends but moreso acquaintances but mostly people who don't know me tell me what a great job I have. It's understandable. I write and talk about sports for a 1aa1adelayedliving. I get that sports fans think they'd love to do that, too. May I share a couple of small doses of reality? Be in my mind late in the fourth quarter of a Heat Finals game that began at 9 p.m. No idea yet whether Miami will be lifted by a huge win or crushed by a huge loss, and the first, inflexible deadline for my column is in 20 minutes and racing toward me with the speed of Tony Parker diving to the rim. Then be with me on Monday's Travel Day From Hell, arising at 7 a.m. in San Antonio and (finally) landing in Fort Lauderdale at around 10:15 p.m. after roughly six hours of weather-related delays and waiting around. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. Check that. Yes, I sure am.

FUTBLOG!: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup soccer blog of this blog, because you can't say the word blog enough in one sentence. Just like four years ago, we'll be World Cup intensive on a daily basis starting later this week, undeterred by the Heat playoff run. Watch for it. FUTBLOG!

Click back often. We update and add to our latest blogposts often...

June 08, 2014

Finals G2: Heat 98, San Antonio 96: Miami evens series behind LeBron's 35!; plus Heat playoff MVP table (updated), raw vs. dumb honesty & more

1) It is SUNDAY, JUNE 8. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with (what else) Heat and NBA Finals. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Saturday Heat notes and 3-pack from San Antonio, California Chrome falls short, Crampgate poll result and more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

My World Cup preview: I columnize in today's Miami Herald World Cup preview section on how the U.S. standing in international soccer adds intrigue to the quadrennial event. America is seldom seen as the underdog in anything. Except this. Click on Us Against The World for the column. (Also, below find item on U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann).

FINALS G2: HEAT 98, SAN ANTONIO 96: LEBRON ANSWERS HIS HATERS WITH 35: LeBron James' 35 points carried Miami tonight in the two-point win that evens the Finals 1-1. Most impressively he did it all ways in hitting 14 of 22 shots including three 3's. He pounded the paint with force, he hit oustide jumpers, he had 10 rebounds -- all of it three days after debilitating cramping erased him late from Game 1 and drew a barrage of mocking on Twitter and elsewhere. Call tonight his response. He had help, though. Chris Bosh had 18 and Dwyane Wade 14, and Rashard Lewis also added 14. Miami also was much better defensively, with the Spurs shooting only 44 percent after hitting 59% in Game 1. Now the Finals haed to Miami for Games 3 and 4 starting Tuesday. The three-peat dream wouldn't have died with a loss and a 2-0, but it felt like Sunday brought it back to life just the same. Click on The King Reigns for my column from San Antonio off tonight's Miami win. ..... Original post: Some final thoughts on Crampgate before we look ahead to tonight. The consensus seems to be that no, the Spurs did not "arrange" for the air-conditioning failure that caused the hot/humid arena that led to LeBron James' 1aa1aheatspursfinalscramping that played a part in the Heat's Game 1 loss. But the consensus is that the Spurs were alerted ahead of time, well before Miami, to better prepare for the conditions. And that the Spurs lockerroom had cooling fans while Miami's did not. If all of this is true, the NBA should fine and publicly admonish the host franchise. OK, moving on. Tonight's Game 2 should find Miami motivated both by how Game 1 ended, and by the LeBron-bashing on social media that followed. But the 1aa1aheatspursg2biggest motivation should be desperation. What a difference in outlook and prospects between leveling this series or heading back to Miami in a 2-0 hole. Miami is on a 12-0 run responding to a loss in the postseason, and that streak confronts its toughest test tonight. The air-conditioning will be back, we are assured, but LeBron being 100 percent is less knowable. Will his minutes be limited? Might the cramping recur? We'll see. Meantime the Heat must do better in other areas, such as defend in a way that San Antonio doesn't shoot close to 60 percent (58.8) again, and allow a Tim Duncan-led layup parade again. Miami, after losing the Finals opener 110-95, must find a way to hold the Spurs under 100 points. I'd expect to see doses of Udonis Haslem (who didn't play at all Thursday) as Miami strives to defend the paint better and narrow S.A.'s rebounding edge. All eyes will be on LeBron's post-cramps health, but the key will be much better defense.

Heat Postseason MVP Standings (updated): We name 'Heat 3 Stars' after every playoff game and award points on 3-2-1 basis. Tonight: 1. LeBron James, 2. Chris Bosh, 3. Rashard Lewis. The updated standings through 17 playoff games, including tonight's Finals Game 2: LeBron James 40 points, Dwyane Wade 24, Chris Bosh 19, Ray Allen 8, Rashard Lewis 4, Chris Andersen 3, Norris Cole 2, James Jones 2.

NBA commissioner on A.C. snafu: New commissioner Adam Silver, addressing the national media prior to Game 2 tonight, clearly was embarrassed by Thursday's air-conditioning outage in San Antonio. "I'm glad this isn't single-elimination," he said. And: "Certainly not one of my prouder moments." And: "In hindsight it wasn't handled perfectly." Silver said the NBA office was informed about the problem shortly after the game began, and was told just before halftime the issue could not be resolved that night.

RAW HONESTY: CALIFORNIA CHROME'S OWNER: It is so rare in sports and thus always refreshing when we see a reaction that is instant, visceral and raw. We got that yesterday from California Chrome's 

1aa1acoburnowner, Steve Coburn, after his horse had been denied the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes by a horse named Tonality. Coburn, pictured, railed against the format that allows a horse like Tonality to not run in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and then swoop in fresh against horses that run all three races. Coburn called that "the coward's way out." His reaction struck many as classless or sour grapes. He had a larger point that was valid: It would be a more level playing field if only horses that raced in the K-Derby could run in the next two races and be TC-eligible. But that probably was not the time or place for Coburn to rail against the rules.

DUMB HONESTY: JURGEN KLINSMANN: Team USA's World Cup coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, said in a New York Times profile, "We cannot win this World Cup because we are not at that level yet. Realistically, it 1aa1aklinsmannis not possible." He may be right. It still was an outrageously dumb, ill-timed thing to say publicly. The U.S. Soccer Federation should be furious. There would be a firestorm if soccer were bigger in this country. You can think that privately, Jurgen, you can say that to your wife, but to broadcast that on the eve of the World Cup is, well, imagine Joe Philbin saying at the start of training camp that the Dolphins are not at a level to compete for a Super Bowl. Klinsmann has cast a soggy blanket over any American enthusaism for this World Cup. There is also the element of self-fulfulling prophecy. Imagine being a player hearing your coach say that? Dumb, dumb.

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June 07, 2014

LeBron on burden he bears, plus other Saturday Heat mega-notes; also 3-pack from San Antonio, Crampgate poll result, California Chrome & more

1) It is SATURDAY, JUNE 7. Thoughts with Tracy Morgan, the comedian seriously injured in an auto accident. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Spurs Finals Game 1 report and video, A.C./cramps poll, MVP standings, NFL concussion result & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

California Chrome falls short of Triple Crown; owner fumes: Damn. Still no Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. Tonality wins the Belmont Stakes today and California Chrome's run at history ends in a fifth-place finish. Chrome got pushed to the outside and did not have a closing kick in the longer race. Afterward Chrome's owner Steve Coburn blasted the Triple Crown format that allows a rested horse like Tonality -- who ran in neither the Kentucky Derby nor Preakness -- to swoop into the Belmont. Coburn angrily called Tonality's victory "the coward's way out." Classless? Sour grapes? Maybe. But Cobrun has a point, too. It would be a level field of only horses running in the Kentucky Derby were eligible for the following two race and a Triple Crown shot.

HEAT STUFF FROM TODAY'S SESSION IN SAN ANTONIO THAT INTERESTED ME:

1aa1aredoct(*) LeBron James warmed up on the court wearing Nike Air Yeezy 2s -- Red Octobers, pictured -- the Kanye West-designed sneakers worth $4,000 and up if you're not LeBron and get them for free.

(*) Check me out on Vine for a new video on Dwyane Wade asking the last question of LeBron in today's media session.

(*) LeBron yesterday called himself "the easiest target in sports" in reaction to being made fun of on social media for his cramps. Today he expounded: "I don't think it, I know it," he said of that burden. "Cameras been in front of me since I was 15, since everything from being an adolescent, kind of going to the top and falling from the mountain and going back on top again. Half of my life I've been in front of this. That makes me an easy target."

(*) LeBron on his post-cramps health: I'm doing well. Doing a lot better. The soreness is starting to get out."

(*) Erik Spoelstra on the review of the tape of Thursday's loss: "A lot of carnage to go through in that film."

(*) Snapshot from the practice gym. On a bench in the far corner: Micky Arison, Pat Riley and Spoelstra. Oh to have bugged that bench!

(*) Wade, a Chicagoan, on the impact on him of Michael Jordan's first Bulls championship: "I was 9 years old, and that's when I feel in love with basketball. After that I was in the  backyard, in the cold, trying to emulate M.J."

(*) Wade on the team's mindset down 1-0 entering Sunday's Game 2: "We're not uptight, we're not overly loose. We're focused." 

A SATURDAY HEAT THREE-PACK...

1. DEFENDING LEBRON FROM THE TWITTIDIOTS: I love that former Dolphins wimp Jonathan Martin 1aa1acramps(of all people) was among those piling on LeBron James on Twitter for his cramps in Game 1, with 'C'mon, bruh. Drink a Gatorade and get out there.' James in general was savaged, with America seemingly oozing out of the woodwork to criticize James when given any opportunity. I address the phenomenon and defend James in today's latest column from San Antonio; click Iron Man to read. I note why James is about the last player in sports whose toughness or durability should be doubted or questioned. For example, in his career, he has started all 154 playoff games and 996 of 1,040 games overall, or 96 percent, a remarkable record of dependability beyond the excellence thet gets more celebrated.

2. HEAT TOPS IN NATIONAL POLL: The Miami Heat have overtaken the Los Angeles Lakers as America's favorite NBA team, in the latest annual poll by ESPN. The Heat are sixth 1aa1aheatlesoverall among favorite U.S. sports teams, after the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, New York Yankees and Denver Broncos. Also, interesting South Florida-market television ratings, via colleague Barry "TV" Jackson, verify Heat's popularity relative to Dolphins. Game 1 of the Finals Thursday drew a 30.5 rating in Miami/Fort Lauderdale, after Heat-Pacers series averaged 23.4. Dolphins regular-season games last year averaged 17.1. In fairness, a Dolphins playoff game rating likely would top 30, but that would require the Dolphins actually, you know, making the playoffs.

3. WADE'S PUBLIC ADVICE FOR SPOELSTRA: Dwyane Wade yesterday publicly admonished coach Erik Spoelstra to play 1aa1adwademore guys in Game 2, partly blaming "mental and physical fatigue down the stretch" for Thursday's loss. "We've got to go a little deeper into our bench, keep guys fresher," Wade said. He likely had in mind Udonis Haslem, who did not play at all in Game 1. James Jones and Toney Douglas did not play, either. At the least, look for a role for Haslem on Sunday. LeBron on Saturday backed up Wade, saying, "Toney,. J.J. and U.D. could have got some minutes to take the load off the rest of us."  

Poll results: Conditions, cramps likely cost Heat Game 1 win: We asked in previous blogpost (you may still vote), and a plurality of 44.2 percent said the lack of arena air-conditioning that led to LeBron James' cramps cost Miami a win Thursday night, while 14.9% said "perhaps" it did. The other 40.9% said no to the premise.

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June 05, 2014

Did no A.C., LeBron cramping cost Heat G1 win? New poll. Vote now!; plus "Frustration and anger," says James; updated Heat MVP table & more

1) It is FRIDAY, JUNE 6. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL concussion poll, NBA Finals odds, LeBron all-league, Pacers parting gifts, Marino's flip-flop, Roman numerals & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

POLL: DID STEAMY CONDITIONS, LEBRON'S CRAMPING COST MIAMI A GAME 1 WIN? VOTE NOW: No air-conditioning = LeBron's cramping and early exit = Heat loss in Game 1 last night? Nothing is that simple. But it seemed like it to me. Click on The Heat Is On for my sweat-soaked column from San Antonio off last night's bizarre Miami loss. (And click on Legacy & Revenge for my earlier column previewing the Finals). Do you think the strange circumstances cost Miami LeBron, the lead and the game? Vote now and say why.

HEAT GAME 1 POSTGAME VIDEO WITH MYSELF AND JOE "GOODY" GOODMAN:

 

FINALS G1: SAN ANTONIO 110, HEAT 95: How thoroughly bizarre! No air-conditioning in the San Antonio arena due to an electrical outage affecting the AC tonight, and it had a direct bearing on the Heat's NBA Finals Game 1 loss. Miami led by seven early in the fourth quarter when the conditions led to LeBron James cramping and having to leave the game. He played only five minutes in the final quarter and sat out the final 3:59 as the Spurs stormed into the lead. Not saying anyone is to blame here or that they should have stopped the game, but the AC fiasco absolutely did affect this result and possibly cost Miami the game. "It sucks in this point in time in the season," James said. "I mean, it's frustration and anger. I lost all the fluids that I was putting in. It was extrenmely hot in the building." Click on The heat is on for my sweat-soaked column from San Antonio, now online. Original post: The NBA hasn't had a three-peat champion since the Lakers in 2000-02 or a Finals rematch since Chicago-Utah in 1997-98, so the best-of-seven commencing tonight in San
1aa1aheatsaAntonio feels special. Feels big. The fact it's considered an even series, or perhaps the Spurs the slightest favorite, adds to the intrigue. So does what lies just beyond for both franchises. Might Tim Duncan retire? Might LeBron James leave in  free agency? (The latter drum won't stop pounding, the latest a pile of LeBron-to-Clippers speculation on ESPN.com). Meantime Duncan's Spurs try to avenge last year's crushing Finals loss to Miami slight -- with what seemed a certain title snatched 1aa1aduncleb 1aa1ag1away on Ray Allen's miracle 3. And LeBron's
Heat try to make a third straight championship parade happen. Beyond those broadest themes the series will turn on how smaller questions are answered. Will Kawhi Leonard's defense limit LeBron? Which team's 3-point sharpshooters will be better? Is Tony Parker fully healthy? Does Dwyane Wade have a big series in him? Can Chris Bosh keep Duncan from layup range? How much will each team get out of Manu Ginobli and Mario Chalmers? So many small answers together will create for somebody four huge wins and one championship. So who wins? We had a big poll (admittedly skewed to Heat fans) and 76 percent of you picked Miami. ESPN experts says it'll be Spurs by a 12-6 vote. My pick: In LeBron I trust. Heat in 6.

Heat Postseason MVP Standings (updated): We name 'Heat 3 Stars' after every playoff game and award points on 3-2-1 basis. Tonight: 1. LeBron James (you saw his value in his absence), 2. Chris Bosh, 3. Dwyane Wade. The standings through 16 playoff games, including Finals Game 1: LeBron James 37 points, Dwyane Wade 24, Chris Bosh 17, Ray Allen 8, Chris Andersen 3, Rashard Lewis 3, Norris Cole 2, James Jones 2.

Poll result: Limited sympathy for ex-NFL players on concussions: We asked and 49.2 percent said former players should quit complaining, versus 23.9% who believe they deserve compensation. The other 26.9% can see both sides or are undecided.

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June 03, 2014

Players vs. NFL: Pick a side on concussion issue. New poll. Vote!; plus Marino un-sues NFL, Finals odds, 76% pick Heat, Pacers parting gifts & more

1aa1ahiward1) It is WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4. Howard Schenellenberger Tweeted out the photo at right. Gotta love Howard. Go Owls! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Spurs Finals prediction poll, me and the 'orange jumpsuit', Marino/Kelly, Caroline on the rebound, MLB division races & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

1aa1asb50Rome is burning: Super Bowl announced a break from Roman numnerals sof rits 50th Super Bowl logo.

Ho hum. LeBron first-team All-NBA: Heat's LeBron James is first-team All-NBA for the seventh straight season, with 623 of a possible 625 overall votes. Joining him: Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, James Harden and Joakim Noah. No Heater on 2nd or 3rd team. Dwyane Wade (6 votes) and and Chris Bosh (1) barely mentioned among "others receiving votes." 

Oops. Marino un-sues NFL: Yesterday morning it was reported Dan Marino had joined the latest lawsuit by ex-players against the NFL over long-term affects of concussions. By afternoon his lawyers said Marino has not joined that lawsuit. Alrighty then. 

WHAT SHOULD BE SYMPATHY LEVEL FOR EX-NFL PLAYERS ON CONCUSSION AFTER-EFFECTS?: We briefly interupt our blog's takeover by the Heat playoff run to bring you an unrelated lead item. This admittedly is a complicated, amorphous issue hardly lending itself to a simple, either/poll question. But 1aa1aconmcussionswhy should that stop us! The question is how responsible the NFL is for players' post-career after-effects of an inherently violent, body-jarring sport? Player lawyers argue medical care was lacking back in the day, and the fact there wasn't the concussion protocol there is today put players at long-term risk. An opposing view might be that players were well-compensated for a line of work they chose and knew involved physical pounding. I'll admit I'm torn on this subject but am inclined to not hold the sport overly liable for not having in place, 30 years, ago, a protocol that is now standard. Medical advancement moves at its own pace. I'd use an as example the fact cigarettes once had no government warning labels and were routinely smoked in office buildings. Just as concussion risk once had no warning label. I don't think it was an NFL conspiracy. I think it was medical science catching up to risk and long-term effect. Likewise, equipment and helmets are safer today than they once were. Anyway, we stuff this complicated topic into our blog grinder and come out with this poll. It simply solicits your general, overall view. I'm curious how you feel and also whether the involvement of Marino weighs on that in any way. Vote and say why.

NBA FINALS BETTINGS ODDS: Bovada has it dead even, in that Heat in 6 and Spurs in 7 are the betting faves at 7-2 each, followed by Heat in 7 and Spurs in 5 at 5-1 each. Finals MVP picks are LeBron James 6-5, Tim Duncan 5-2, Tony Parker 13-5 and Dwyane Wade 8-1. Selected scoring-average over/unders are LeBron 28.5, Wade 18, Chris Bosh 15, Parker 17, Duncan 16.5, and Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobli both 13.5. 

Poll result: 76 percent say Heat over Spurs: We asked in the previous blogpost how you see the NBA Finals turning out (you may still vote), and 76.46 percent overall predicted a Heat championship. The top three vote-getters of eight choices were Heat in 6 games (54.92%), Heat in 7 (15.49%) and Spurs in 6 (12.17%). As you'd imagine the second-most votes after Florida came from Texas, where 73.48% foresaw a Spurs championship.

1aa1pacersripPARTING GIFTS FOR PACERS: Can't let Lance Stephenson and the Pacers slip off into the offseason without a couple of parting gifts, can we? One is the terrific, Rat Pack-styled artwork by @RobCabrera presented at right. The second is LE BATARD'S EPIC RANT, which I provide here because I'm tired of being Pacers fans' most hated Miami media guy and it's time for Dan to take his turn.

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June 01, 2014

Predict Heat-Spurs NBA Finals. Who wins and in how many? Poll. Vote!; plus my 'orange jumpsuit' regret, Marino/Kelly, jilted Wozniacki & more

1) It is MONDAY, JUNE 2. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with Heat-Pacers. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Spurs-or-Thunder poll, Heat-Pacers Game 6, vote Stanton, Dolphins forecast, Scout Willis & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

HEAT-SPURS FINALS REMATCH: SAME RESULT, OR DIFFERENT?: The NBA prepares for its first Finals rematch since Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls met (and twice beat) Karl Malone's Utah Jazz in 1997-98. 1aa1anbafinals 1aa1alenduncCan the Heat repeat for a three-peat? The oddsmakers doubt it. Miami is a 3 1/2-point underdog for Thursday night's Game 1 in San Antonio, and generally a narrow underdog in the series -- although Las Vegas Hilton and a few other sports books have the betting odds dead even. It should stay close, with the Spurs' superior record and home-court advantage offsetting Miami's double-champion pedigree. San Antonio has the revenge factor -- "We'll do it this time," said Tim Duncan -- and also is seen as a tough matchup for Miami, which may not have the low-post presence to contend with Duncan, Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw. The Spurs also have been shooting well from 3-point range this postseason.But do you really ewant to underestimate LeBron James and Miami's chase at history. We've done this poll before every round. How do you expect the NBA Finals to turn out? Not what you hope but what you honestly predict. Vote and say why.

Poll results: Heat fans wanted Thunder, not Spurs: We asked in the previous blogpost and 59.2 percent preferred Miami face Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals, versus 40.8% who preferred San Antonio. Notably, the vote for OKC was running closer to 70-30, but votes for San Antonio flooded in once the Spurs won last night to clinch a spot in the Finals.

I WAS WRONG ON 'ORANGE JUMPSUIT' REFERENCE: A quick backgrounder for those unaware. My column off the Heat's clinching Game 6 win over Indiana the other night spent a good deal of time eviscerating the Pacers' Lance Stephenson for his dirty play and buffoonish antics, and the column included the following paragraph: "Stephenson’s egregiously dirty streetball gives one the impression that if his skills hadn’t put him in NBA clothes, his uniform by now might be an orange jumpsuit, county-issue." It was one sentence, low in the column, but it was seen as racially charged in a way I did not intend. I initially stood behind what I wrote against a backlash on Twitter, but upon reflection I was wrong to make the orange-jumpsuit reference and wish I had not. I say this not because my boss ordered me to or because of any Tweeted outcry, but because I realized I'd made an assumption about Stephenson that made me uncomfortable defending. Neither Stephenson's behavior in the Heat series nor his past off-court incidents, including a charge he threw his girlfriend down a flight of stairs, justifies a presumption he might be in jail if not in the NBA. The fact I'd have made the same reference to a white player who had that history and behaved like that in the series also does not justify the presumption. Anybody who has done what I do for a living for this long has been guilty of an occasional lapse in judgment. For me, this was one.

1aa1amarino visitMARINO VISITS KELLY: Once, rivals. Now, old friends, one reaching out to the other. Former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino visited former Bills counterpart Jim Kelly in the hospital Sunday as Kelly continues to battle oral cancer and undergo radiation treatment in upstate New York. Click here for a brief video. Pictured, Marino with Kelly in the hospital. (Howard Schnellenberger, Kelly's old UM coach, and ex-Bills GM Bill Polian also were visiting Kelly on Sunday).

1aa1acarolineCAROLINE ON THE REBOUND: Dumped unceremoniously by fiance golfer Rory McIlroy in a brief phone call, jilted tennis star Caroline Wozniacki bounced back impressively on Saturday with some fun on the sands of Miami Beach. Nice touch on the 'Lover' T, too. Her throwing motion may be somehwat suspect but (Mildly Sexist Comment Alert) her form otherwise seems quite good, actually. Rory, Rory, Rory. Quick aside: My son and I, over golf on Sunday (96 at Davie Golf Club to his 87), were discussing how Rory had dropped Caroline after wedding invitations already had gone out, in a move so sudden and unexpected that Caroline at first thought the phone call was a joke. My in-his-20s son was defending Rory. Drawing on experience, I suggested he deftly omit his defense of Rory should the topic of the breakup ever happen to arise in a conversation with his girlfriend. Fore!

THE LIST: MLB DIVISION RACES: The Marlins' division, the NL East, is the most competitive in baseball this season, based on fewest combined games behind (CGB) the frontrunner, entering Monday's games:

Division        CGB (2nd)

NL East        16.5 (3.0)

AL Central    22.5 (4.5)

AL East        24.5 (3.5)

AL West       28.5 (4.5)

NL Central    31.0 (4.0)

NL West       42.0 (7.5)

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